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Misconceptions

Some misconceptions circulate about animal research. Here, you will find answers to the most common ones. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can also visit the English website, Speaking of Research, which will give you a lot of information around the subject and offers a regularly updated RSS feed.

Misconception No9: “Animals never make it out of the lab alive.”

A common misconception is that animals never come out alive from labs. For scientific, medical, ethical problems or linked to regulations or because of a lack of practical solutions, it is indeed often not possible to allow animals to live a life after the lab. Even if some institutions have been trying to offer this possibility for a while, of course according to regulations, the return to an outdoor life or “pensions” for their animals remains an exception.

But things are changing. For a few years now, associations are created in order to promote the rehabilitation of lab animals whenever possible. In France, the GRAAL association has been working for years in this field and in collaboration with researchers to provide a happy retirement for many animals (dogs, horses, farm animals, birds, monkeys, hamster).

Misconception No8: “France is the European country that uses the most animals in research which proves its lack of interest for animals.”

This is wrong. The last available survey (in french), from 2010, shows that France used 2,2 millions animals, just as much as the United Kingdom that year (Figure 2).

What those numbers really indicate is the importance of biomedical research for each country. Indeed, it is the importance for biomedical research that sets the number of animals used. In this respect, it should be noted the effectiveness of French research, this efficiency which alone justifies the use of animals - in 2008, three French researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Misconception No7: “It is not scientific interest alone that motivates the use of animals in research."

The use of animal research is always motivated by scientific interest and is public health oriented.

This research is set within the framework of legal requirements as it is the case for drug safety studies. In this case, the legislator requires the use of animals for some studies because it is the most reliable way of obtaining valid scientific data on the effects of a future drug.

The use of animals is research can also fit into the framework of scientific and medical research. In this case, the researcher is free to use the method of his choice. The frequent use of animals in research is explained, not by habit or pressure from the scientific community, but by the will to use the most reliable scientific methods to enable discoveries. And animal research is part of those methods.

Misconception No6: “Animal research is torture."

Torture does not exist in labs and pain is absent from most studies.

The shocking images that we sometimes see are manipulated to scare.

The USA have a record for animal studies involving pain and note its absence in 61% of research animals and it is suppressed by analgesics or anesthetics for another 30% of the animals. In the end, only 9% of animals have to withstand pain. Pain is unfortunately often part of the diseases studied such as cancer, inflammatory diseases or strokes.

Ethics committees and research teams systematically make sure to prevent, detect, reduce or eliminate pain. The use of anesthesia is systematic unless it is more traumatic than the procedure or incompatible with the purpose of the study (French Rural Code art. R214-109). A study involving intense pain, suffering or anxiety likely to be endured without the possibility of being relieved cannot be implemented (French Rural Code art. R214-108). The minister responsible for research can grant an exemption only after consulting the other signatory ministers and notifying the European Commission, which may oppose.

Misconception No5: “Humans aren’t animals, that is why animal research is not effective."

Humans and animals have evolved from the same entity since Earth exists. That is why both animals and humans have many things in commons: DNA and RNA are built on the same genetic code in jellyfish, flies, chickens, mice and humans. 99% of mice genes have a homologous gene in humans. In all mammals (mice, rats, rabbits, dogs, pigs, monkeys) we find the same organs than in humans (brain, heart, lungs, intestines, liver, kidneys, skin) that function similarly. This principle of homology underpins the use of animal research. It is logical and efficient to study animals in order to progress regarding human health.

The differences that exist between animals and humans far from paralyzing research allow for progress. For example, finding out why one species is resistant to a disease can help find a cure for one that is sensitive.